So you have completed your master’s degree in your pursuit of a career in therapy—hooray!
You have decided that you really want to work with kids, but wonder if you are really prepared for this? Did your hard-earned degree really give you what you need to succeed in this area?
Here are three questions to ask yourself before you begin your work with kids:
1. Did you take a child development class?
Believe it or not, kids are not miniature adults. They are different in significant ways.
Up until 18 months of age, all memory is implicit—meaning it is held in our body but outside of conscious awareness. Explicit, or “mental” memory is not consistent and stable until 4 to 6 years of age (Gantt, 2012).
This means that learning and communication are quite different for a child than for an adult. Whereas an adult may be able to communicate his or her thoughts and feelings to another adult, kids engage others through non-verbal and playful communication.
Play, in fact, is how a child is regulated and learns to regulate.
Having gone through a child development class gives you a foundation for understanding the differences between children and adults and how to put those differences into practice.
2. Did you learn and practice how to engage implicit memories?
In order to gain new understanding, children need a new facilitated experience. This is because implicit memory and learning are generally not accessible through words or logic (Gantt, 2012; Kestly, 2014). There needs to be a way for the child to bodily live out new insights in order to create or rewire patterns of thought and behavior. Talk therapy for a child will completely miss the mark.
More importantly, without accessing, and changing, the implicit and embodied “recipes” the child loses freedom of conscious choice, and will remain tied to behavioral impulses.
The truth is that all of us continue to utilize implicit memories, information, and embodied "recipes" to guide our decisions and behaviors. Knowing how to engage implicit memories will benefit your work with clients of all ages!
3. Did you learn and practice what it is to communicate in symbolism, gesture, and metaphor?
Play is a child’s natural way of using their “embodied brain” to explore, understand, and communicate – this is the non-verbal language of symbolism and gesture. Therefore understanding how to communicate through these mediums is essential (Crenshaw & Stewart, 2015).
What if I answered "no" to one of the three questions?
If your master’s degree did not accomplish all three of these things, you will need more training in order to see profound success in your work with kids.
Play Therapy gives you all of these skills and more.
While most graduate courses on theory are discussed as they relate to talk therapy (communicating through words), few even hint at how to implement these theories non-verbally or with limited vocabulary.
Likewise, most graduate theory courses are designed to help you guide the client to develop conscious insight and awareness for healing. But what if experience is more important than conscious awareness for healing?
When you learn the skills and concepts of play therapy you will learn to engage implicit memories and understand symbolism, gesture and metaphor. Theories discussed will relate directly to how they can be applied to play and your work with children—giving you the best foundation for your work.
To learn more about how to get the training you need, subscribe to our newsletter. We will provide you with more information on how to become a Registered Play Therapist and equip you with a clear path to get started on your journey.
Crenshaw, D & Stewart, A. (2015) Play therapy: A comprehensive guide to theory and practice
Gantt, S. P. (2012). The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Group Psychotherapy and Group Process
Kestly, T. A. (2014). The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Play: Brain-Building Interventions for Emotional Well-Being